Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Strengthening Health Institute (SHI) Graduate's Story

Sophia G.: Strengthening Health Institute (SHI) Graduate, 2010

Many SHI Comprehensive Certificate Program (CCP) students are relative newcomers to Macrobiotics. They have started eating well recently and want to learn more about the thinking behind the way of life or “diet” that has changed their health for the better. Almost all CCP students are adults with jobs and families who travel to Philadelphia to deepen their appreciation and understanding of something new and even a little strange to them.

Sophia G., who graduated from CCP in February, was decidedly different from most of her classmates. Sophia was only 16 when she started taking classes from Denny and Susan Waxman at SHI and Macrobiotics was not something new and strange to her. Her parents, John and Mary, have been eating a Macrobiotic diet for more than twenty five years. In fact, Sophia, the third of their seven children, was born in Japan where her parents lived for four years to study traditional cooking. Sophia has not only grown up eating this way but she also has been assisting her mother, an accomplished medicinal cook, since she was 12 years old.

So why did she come to CCP in Philadelphia to study?

Her family are Orthodox Christians who homeschool their children to foster their vocations or “callings” rather than to meet conventional education standards. Educational reformer John Holt called this cardiac intelligence focused parenting “un-schooling” and Sophia is a model “un-schooler.” Her two older sisters, one an athlete, the other a musician, are students at VMI and the University of Chicago.

Sophia, in contrast, hopes to be a nun in an Orthodox monastery. Her “studies,” consequently, are focused on her interests in music, church history and teaching, and on cooking. She makes pilgrimages to convents when she is not cooking for clients and studying the violin with her teacher at Philadelphia’s Settlement Music School.

She came to SHI because her mom and dad, both graduates of the Kushi Institute in the 1980’s, thought it the best place for her to learn the cooking skills and traditional thinking behind Macrobiotics.

As John, now a literary critic but once a teacher and the director of programs at the Kushi Foundation Berkshires Center, wrote us,

Mary and I urged Sophia to take SHI’s Comprehensive Certificate Program as part of her un-schooling because we believe that Denny and Susan Waxman are the best at what they do. The great improvement in Sophia’s cooking skills and her greater grasp of the Principle at the heart of traditional cosmology from her studies there is all due to the Waxmans’ unmatched experience and ability to communicate what they know.

Sophia says:
My parents have taught us for as long as I can remember that the right way to understand food is as an echo of the Eucharist. I certainly didn’t ‘get’ this idea of food and cooking styles, though, that they are transparencies of the Principle that creates us all, until my year studying with Denny and Susan. I will always be grateful to them for teaching me how to see people’s conditions in this light and for encouraging me as a young person and cook! I will be applying the lessons and using the skills I learned at SHI the rest of my life.

Mary, Sophia’s mother, wrote:
I was blessed to study with Aveline Kushi, Shizuko Yamamoto, and Wendy Esko when I started cooking years ago and I knew the difference these women made in my understanding of food and health. John and I recognized from our experience that Sophia, a good cook by nature, needed the formal instruction and experience she could only get with the best teachers and cooks if she were to begin reaching her potential. And there are no better teachers and cooks in the US than Susan and Denny and no better intensive program than CCP.

Sophia’s CCP classmates realized very quickly that this very friendly if barely five feet tall young woman with long hair and braces was not a child. Her skills in Susan’s classes and the questions she asked Denny, Susan, and the other SHI instructors reflected her intelligence, big heart, and keen interest in the subjects at hand. Sophia loved and was a big part of the lively discussions during class and over meals at CCP during her year there. Since graduating, Sophia has been cooking for clients in Florida, New Jersey, Missouri, New York City, and Southern California.

Every CCP class is made up of people with stories as different and interesting as Sophia’s. What they all have in common, what brings them to SHI, is a light burning in them to learn more about Macrobiotic cooking and traditional thinking. If you want to join the discussions, acquire the skills, and meet thoughtful, challenging people like Sophia, contact the SHI office today at 215-238-9212!

Sophia G. was a recipient of a CCP Scholarship

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